- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2010

Art for growth

“It is tempting to cheer the potential Langston Hughes museum in Fairfax [Ohio] as a development that would honor a writer, preserve the cultural legacy of the neighborhood, and bring in tourist dollars. But investing in writers’ former homes is not a development tactic with a great track record. There are about 55 writers’ houses open to the public in America. Most are owned by civic organizations, and many lose money. …

“Even thriving cities and neighborhoods have a hard time turning writers’ homes into sustainable tourist draws. A recent attempt to establish a museum at Langston Hughes’ former home in Harlem failed when the owners of the million-dollar-plus brownstone quarreled with tenants. And the past few years have taught us all the fundamental irrationality of real estate. Just as a literary classic can become pulp, a penthouse can become a vacant foreclosure. There are no sure bets.”

Anne Trubek, writing on “A Museum of One’s Own,” on Jan. 29 at the American Prospect

Art for display

“Given the common fatalism about the ‘death of privacy,’ I find it encouraging that Facebook’s problems have resulted not from a complete lack of privacy, but rather from widespread paranoia about whether the site’s privacy system could be trusted. Before the site launched in 2004, an insistence on online privacy had come to seem, at least in cutting-edge quarters, like a kind of snobbery.

“Facebook, precisely thanks to the elitist nature of its founding, was able to show millions of college students — those who use the Internet most that excluding the wider world actually expanded what you could do online. As we have known offline for centuries, and as these students learned on the Web, there are many things, from party photos to Marquis de Sade quotes, that one might comfortably pin over a desk or hang on a wall, but that would best not be made visible to just anyone online.”

Charles Petersen, writing on “In the World of Facebook,” in the Feb. 25 issue of the New York Review of Books

Art for politics

“But the most extreme contrast between them, as [biographer Pierre] Assouline tells it, was moral. Although [cartoonist Charles] Remi and Tintin had a similar moral code, rooted in the Catholic scout movement of Remis childhood, they felt and acted in very different ways. Remi seemed to experience injustice only obliquely and he very rarely took action against it. Tintin, on the other hand, always leaps to the defense of an injured party and metes out instant, rough justice.

“The moral divide between Remi and [Tintin] yawned widest during and after World War II. Remi chose to spend the war in his German-occupied homeland, where he continued to work unmolested, thanks to longtime links to right-wing figures. …

“After the war, as he sought to defend himself from charges of incivisme (which may be roughly translated as ‘disloyalty’), Remi explained his conduct during the war as a kind of aesthetic quietism. Artists such as himself, he argued, had no special obligation to take a stand against political evil: they had a higher calling.”

Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, writing on “In and Out of History,” on Feb. 2 at the New Republic

Art studio RIP

“With news of the closure of Miramax — the independent arthouse outfit that infiltrated Hollywoods circle of major players in the 1990s … Mickey Mouse became a villain to film fans across the world. Though Miramaxs output has been considerably downscaled since the departure of founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein in 2005, their official closure marks a sad day for the film industry. The company, which thrived with the financial backing granted by the Walt Disney Empire since being bought out in 1993, had been plagued with financial struggles of late and, as such, the Mouse House finally decided to lower the axe on January 28th, 2010.

“Kevin Smith was (surprise, surprise) among the first to give his two cents, championing the studios halcyon days as ‘[not] just a bad-boy clubhouse, it was a 20th century Olympus … And for one brief, shining moment, it was an age of magic and wonders.’

“His words arent far off the mark. When we look at their productivity from Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) onward, the place was practically a factory for cult hits. Whats more, they had a knack for turning their filmmakers into indie icons: Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith were launched to megastar status after their success under the Miramax banner.”

Huw Jones, writing on “An Ode to Miramax” on Feb. 3 at Slant magazine blog The House Next Door

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